OCTOBER 22, 2010 10:39AM

Old Man, Take A Look At My Life....

Rate: 29 Flag

     He's 87 today, and I know there are times he's surprised he made it to 20.

     We had our rows when I was young (and stupid), but I grew up with the knowledge that he, like most of the men in the neighbourhood -- and like most of my adult relatives -- had done a tremendous thing: They fought the good fight from 1939 to 1945. And it gave me something to try to live up to.

     He joined the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals in 1940, when he was 17. Overseas by 18, he was in England, North Africa, Italy -- where he turned 21 -- and Northwest Europe, and has the medals and ribbons to prove it. A couple of years ago, I finally got him to relate his experiences into a tape recorder for his great-grandchildren. He started off by saying "There are some things I'm not going to discuss...." And I know why, from my own experience. But what's there is a story to hear.

     He came home on crutches, the result of sideswiping a deuce-and-half truck on a motorcycle nine days after the German surrender. He refused to let that injury slow him down. In fact, he refused to even limp, despite the horrific surgery done to reconstruct his knee in 1945. Every year for decades, he'd go off with his hunting and fishing buddies, trekking those great north woods where he'd been born. And he'd come back smiling. Hell of an example.

     He can't do that any more, not after three knee replacements and open heart surgery and a series of mini-strokes. Nor can he go golfing as he did before and after his retirement from the company he and my mother founded in 1955, and which my brother now runs with such great success.

     I won't be with him today, or at least, I won't be with him physically. Mentally and emotionally, I will be there, though, because looking back, I can see how he influenced my life, mostly in a good way.

     I inherited his love of language and books and poetry, for one thing. Unwittingly, perhaps, he taught me about rhythm and cadence on his good knee. He'd read aloud The Highwayman or How They Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix or The Charge of the Light Brigade, bouncing his leg -- and me -- in time to the words. I still try to write that way, as if it was meant to be spoken.

     I also inherited his gift for musketry, and his love of things electronic. So much so that I joined the Signal Corps cadets and then the militia the moment I was able.

     And even if I didn't get the entrepreneurial gene, the example he set in business of honesty, fairness, hard work and commitment is one I've never forgotten.

     What I did have was  a 40-year career that was filled with words and photographs and people and excitement. He even let me ride motorcycles when I was 16 -- despite what happened to him -- as long as I wore a helmet. It was, in some ways, as big a gift as anything else.

     So happy birthday, Old Man. I'll be talking to you this evening....

Home at last. Summer, 1945

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
Bo, Of course the title drew me in ...
This was a lovely tribute to your Dad. "Unwittingly, perhaps, he taught me about rhythm and cadence on his good knee." We're glad he did. You do it well.
What a nice tribute to the man who gave you life. He sounds like he knew the importance of example, just lie you do. Happy Birthday to your father.

Really wonderful tribute to your Dad.. Happy Birthday Dad!
Neil Young could not have said it better and neither could you.
Wonderful.. really wonderful adn rated with hugs
What a guy . . . he wore out 3 knee replacements! Seriously, he sounds like a man among men . . . what a fine example of humanity. And what a cool way to honor him. He looks so fresh-faced in that picture!
Good job. He went through 6 years and got hurt after the surrender. Damn.
He must have been quite a man. My dad would be about the same age, and he had the medals to prove it. He died early though, a damn shame, but he taught me much in those few years. You can see your love for him in every word you write. I hope he has many more!
Well done Bo!

A fine tribute indeed.....
An honest tribute to a truly handsome man, for sure. Hope you have a good time.
a wonderful tribute... I now know more about you through your words and son's love. Happy Birthday to your father.
A wonderful tribute -- I'm sure he's proud of it -- and you. I did have to laugh at your choice of a title. I used to be a carpenter in a scene shop working with guys half my age. One in particular, Charlie, used to rag me a little and I would sing to him:

Young man, take a look at my life
I'm a lot like you'll be
I did truly love this. It was so close to home for me.

And that word "integrity," so difficult of definition. I do not think that we can usefully define integrity. I think that we can only point to certain few human beings, such as your father, and say, "There it is."
Yup. The last great generation. By comparison, we seem to spoiled. Great piece.
What a wonderful tribute. Beautiful.
rated with love
Scarlett, I'm glad too.

Yeah, Buffy. Took awhile for it all to sink in, but it mostly did.

I'll make sure he knows, Rita.

Thank you, Linda.

Owl, one of the replacements was because the surgeons botched the first one. His major complaint was that they wouldn't let him watch while they did it.

Yah, Damon. My kid brother teases him that he didn't even get a wound stripe out of it.

Autumn's closing in for him, ScanMan; we all know it, but keep hoping....

Thanks, Sky.

I'll probably spend a couple of hours on the phone with him tonight, Lea -- or as long as our respective bodily functions let us.

I'll pass your wishes along to him, Chuck.

Tom, that's perfect. Resonates better than "As I was, so you are; as I am, so you will be".
Yeah, integrity is difficult to define, Brass, but you're right: There are some people who live it.

John, I couldn't agree more. Didn't think so at the time, of course -- I did mention I was stupid.

Thank you too, Poetess.
He'd be so proud to read this. What wonderful memories. I hope they bring you joy and comfort today.
A beautiful tribute written from the heart. They don't make them like that generation any longer.

Hoping your Dad has a wonderful birthday and knows how much you love and admire him.

I love The Highwayman too.
Yes, you have his cadence! Great tribute B1!!
What a beautiful tribute to your dad. He sounds like a truly remarkable man!!
Happy Birthday to Him. You had a perfect role model. This is beautiful and touching. ~R
Very nicely done. He has kind eyes. You sound like you must have inherited them.
It wasn't always fun, BV, believe me. These are the good things I took away.

Thanks, Linda. It's always been one of my faves.

Trig, thanks for saying that.

Fusun, he'd argue, with some truth, that he was far from a perfect role model ... but I still learned a lot.

I may have inherited his eyes, Anna, but thankfully not what those eyes saw.
Terrific tribute. My best to him.
How wonderful to hear of a father who has given a son such rich treasure. Great gifts.
Very nice tribute my friend, my Dad use to say to me every time I saw him, "one of these days you'll make it son." I did and I will never forget his guidance. He taught me the way it works in the real world, quietly and straightforward. My Best to You and The Lovely Misses and Family. Older/exasperated R++++++
Thanks, Gwool and Cranky. I spent some time on the phone with him last night. It was interesting, to say the least.

Anya, we've reached sort of an understanding about each other. High time, too.

O/E, yeah, that kind of support and encouragement really helps. But I still think he's surprised by what I did.
I've been hearing Neil's tenor voice singing this song ever since I saw the title of your wonderful post. Beautiful tribute to your dad. My congratulations on his birthday.
Thanks, Matt. The title is no mistake -- it was going through my head constantly along with Father and Son by Cat Stevens. It was a toss-up which I'd use. Settled on Neil 'cause what the hell -- he's Canajan, eh?
I'm in tears and we're not even related. Your father must be as proud of you as you are of him. What a handsome and unique individual. This really was a terrific tribute and wonderful post......:)
Susan, I am proud of him; not sure if the reverse is entirely true -- he wanted me in the family business. We had our moments....
sorry to be late, loved this Bo.
Thanks, Gabby. Glad you liked it....
I think our younger people of today are missing out on a heck of a lot of good character and life experience, and such wisdom. Thanks for sharing.
Oryoki, he also talked on the tape about some of his other life experiences and lessons. Everyone in the family now has a DVD copy, and I hope it'll be passed down the generations.
that really is a wonderful picture; he looks great and very likeable
Oh, yeah, KK. People liked him on sight.